Remembering San Lupo

Recently, three distant relatives of mine, siblings Vittorio, Mariapaola and Nicoletta Linfante friended me on Facebook. Their roots are in San Lupo where my great-grandmother’s family originated. This brought back memories of my spontaneous adventure to San Lupo.

It was around this time in 2001 that my mom, sister and I made a last minute decision to stop in San Lupo on our way to Rome from Calitri. San Lupo is much more tiny than Calitri in terms of square kilometers and population. In fact, the 2001 census listed only 877 inhabitants.

Getting there was quite a challenge. The village rests on a top of a mountain and the only way to get there was a devilishly narrow, wildly winding, one-way highway (or poorly paved trail, more like!) without a railing. Once we got on the highway, my mom and I glanced at each other warily as if we were saying, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea….” But it was too late to turn back, besides the only way down was to drive backwards!

When we finally reached the town in one piece, we were surprised to see how incredibly tiny it was! I recall maybe only four or five cobbled streets, all of which, except for the main street, were far too tiny for cars to pass through. Another thing we immediately noticed was how lifeless it seemed. All shutters were closed, not one soul walked about, everything was as quiet as death. What a drastic contrast to vibrant Calitri!

San Lupo, photo by Lorenzo Ferrara

San Lupo, photo by Lorenzo Ferrara

Not knowing where else to go, we decided to go to the cemetery that we passed on our scary odyssey up the mountain. While my exhausted sister slept in the car, my mom and I strolled around the cemetery hoping to find any Linfante’s (the family name of her grandmother). We were disappointed to find none until we entered what seemed to be a tiny ossuary located near the entrance. On both sides of the ossuary, there were stacks of hundreds of shoeboxes with people’s names written on the front. Naively thinking that its contents were pictures or personal contents to remember the deceased by, I picked up a shoebox and opened it. Well, curiosity killed the cat. I shrieked and staggered backwards when I discovered nothing but decomposing human bones!

After inspecting the ossuary some more, we discovered a good number of Linfante’s. A shoebox read, “LINFANTE FLORENZIO”, another “LINFANTE ELISA”, another “LINFANTE LUPO”, etc. I was dumbfounded and felt a pang of sadness. Here I was, thousands and thousands of miles away from home in a small, eldritch town in the middle of nowhere, looking at stacks of worn shoeboxes that housed our unknown relatives’ remains. What tough, impoverished lives they must have endured…not being able to afford the luxury of being properly buried.

We decided to return to the town in hopes to find a Sanlupesi and see if our relatives still resided there. We drove around for a little bit until we found a man walking along the street. I pulled over then asked him if he knows of any Linfante’s. He cheerily introduced himself as Domenico Di Libero and said that his grandmother was a Linfante! He then said that there was only one Linfante left, an elderly lady named Antonietta who lived in a neighboring town, Cerreto Sannita. He graciously offered to telephone her and then guide us there.

We followed Domenico out of San Lupo and into Cerreto Sannita to Antonietta Linfante’s flat. My mom and I greeted Antonietta and her husband, an university professor by the name of Daniele Biondi. They were very warm and hospitable, offering us espresso and le caramelle while Antonietta and I chatted, trying to figure out how we were related. It turned out that her grandfather, Lelio Linfante, was a first cousin to my great-great-great-grandfather, Emiddio. A bit distant, but a cousin nonetheless.

We were able to stay for only half an hour as the sun was quickly descending and I did not want to brave the dimly lit A1 highway at night. They sent us off with boxes of le caramelle and a teary embrace.

(By the way, Vittorio, Mariapaola and Nicoletta, who I mentioned in the beginning of this post, are Antonietta’s nephew and nieces.)

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15 Comments

Filed under Europe, Genealogy

15 responses to “Remembering San Lupo

  1. Lori Dameff

    Thank you so much for sharing your travel adventure and family history. I am working on family tree for many years as you know and as much as I really love Italy, I am sad to see that I have no relative from there. I am just Irish & Scottish with a bit of English (Baldwin cuz of your) and Swiss. However, my hubby Rob’s family is from Greece and Macedonia which is across the water from Italy…close enough! I am still stuck on trying to find his family. We have visited Greece 2 years ago. You are lucky to have known them now and visited them in the motherland 🙂

  2. What a wonderful adventure! I dream of going places like this and meeting those distant relatives.

  3. Michael

    A very interesting story. I too went to San Lupo to find relatives long lost…. in this case it was my grandmother’s cousins. I am happy to say my family and I were able to find them, although the family resemblance to my grandmother was difficult to miss. We were able to spend a short afternoon talking to them and sharing stories. All in all , quite an experience.

  4. Ray Grisi

    Thanks for the description of San Lupo. My mother was a Ferrara. Her father was Peter born in Airola in Benevento Province. His wife, my grandmother , Josephine Del Negro came from San Lupo. She came to the U.S. in the late 1800’s met my grandfather, married and had 9 children. My mother was the baby. The family is large with numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

  5. Silvana Collings

    What a great description of San Lupo! I was searching and found your experience. I was born in San Lupo in 1954 and visited in 1982. I’m eager to go back in a few more years. I too went to look for my grandmother in the ossuary in 1982, and was shocked when I saw a pile of bones in the corner of the room. What happens is that after 7 years they remove the bones from where buried and they put them in the boxes to make room for more. My maiden name is ‘Iannotti’ and I live in Sydney Australia.

  6. robert rully

    My paternal ancestors also hail from San Lupo. There names were Giulio Rulli and Maria Cichiele. Somewhere in town is a Church with an alter paid for by my Uncle, Frank Rulli.

  7. Jack Farese

    My mother was born in San Lupo and came to Jersey City, NJ after WWI. She was 18 years old and her sister, Maria (Mary) came a few years before her. They had a sister, Paolina, who never came to America. My mother’s name was Alphonsina and she married Giacomo Farese in 1923 in Jersey City at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. My mother’s maiden name was Ciaglia. Surprisingly, my mother and aunt Mary never returned to their birthplace. My mother died in 1978 and my aunt Mary in 1976. Amazing how they made another life for themselves in a foreign country.

  8. Trudy

    My father was born in San Lupo in 1939. He came to Australia when he was 18. I would dearly love to one day visit this beautiful little town to see if there are any relatives there…… Cicchiello

  9. Glenda Rider

    My grandmother, Josephine, came from San Lupo. Her maiden name was Del Negro and she married Peter Ferrara from Airola,Benevento. They emigrated to Jersey City I think about 1900 because her oldest child, Rose, who was my mother, was born in Jersey City in 1902. There were nine children in all. Josephine and Peter came to the U.S. separately and met in Jersey City and married. I remember my mother always going to the Mount Carmel mass in honor of St. Lupo every July and meeting all of the descendants of those who came from San Lupo. There is still one living sister of the Ferrara girls who is 97. My family and I visited relatives in Airola in 2000 and again in 2005 but never got the chance to go to San Lupo. We will be in Massa Lubrense, near Sorrento, this June 2013 and I would love to see where my grandmother came from meet any other descendants of Del Negro. Any tips on how to get to San Lupo from the Sorrento area or any other information?

  10. I am also happy to see where after all these years where my grandmother Josephine came from, I really don’t know why my close relatives have not kept me or my family informed of this information.
    Now I realized what I have missed.
    I will also include San Lupo.

    Walter G. Ferrara

  11. Marie

    My grandparents came from San Lupo in the 1900. The family name is DeSanto and they came to Waterbury Ct. Are there any DeSanto families still in San Lupo.

  12. Susan

    My grandparents on my Mom’s side came from San Lupo – the family name is Rettino. It makes me happy to see this beautilful little village – hope I can get there one day too!

  13. I left an earlier reply and the one remaining sister of my mother’s has now passed away. As earlier mentioned, their mother, Josephine Ferrara (nee Del Negro) came from San Lupo. Unfortunately, on my family ‘s last trip to Italy in 2013 I did not have the time to visit San Lupo. You say your family name is Rettino. I remember well my mom often mentioning the Rettino’s and one of the Rettino’s was a teacher at Dickinson High in Jersey City from which I graduated in 1954. All of the names of those from San Lupo are familiar to me. My mom would take me with her to visit the Farese’s. In fact, one of the Farese’s had a small band and he played at my high school graduation party. I also am in close contact with Gloria Linfante who contacted me several years ago through Classmates and we have communicated ever since, as well as visited.

  14. Trudy Smith

    Susan, I am from Australia and my grandmother was Maria RETTINO whom married c1920 Antonio CICCHIELLO. The family came from San Lupo. Unfortunately she died in 1967 when I was only about 18 months old (now 48) so have little memory of her other than photos.

  15. Lupo

    Hi my name is Lupo, I live in Australia. Mum and dad were born in San Lupo. I’ve been there 3 times and I feel like I belong there even though I was born in Australia . Anyway regarding the cemetery experience , the bones in the shoeboxes were once buried and also had a headstone in the cemetery, but after 10-15 years the bones are taken out and the family place them in the shoe boxes because there’s not enough space in the cemetery to keep them
    In the ground for long term. I’m going back to san Lupo for the festa in July this year .
    Ciao tutti
    Lupo

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